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By SUE CARLTON & AMY HERDY
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 8, 2001
Hands down, the homicide unit in any police department typically works the toughest cases.
Lately, the mettle of some homicide detectives at the Tampa Police Department has been tested with the assignment of a high-profile, controversial case involving torture and murder.
Of a pig.
Homicide Sgt. Jim Simonson and his troops have been trying to determine if the castration and death of a wild boar named Andy during a broadcast by Bubba the Love Sponge on WXTB-FM (98 Rock) constitutes animal cruelty.
The situation, which sparked scores of angry phone calls and e-mails to the department on behalf of the boar, has Simonson, a self-described city slicker, flummoxed.
"I'm not a hunter," he said. "I don't know what's cruel and unusual when dealing with wild pigs."
So how did the homicide division, which has several current, active investigations involving human murders, get assigned to the death of a pig?
"I don't know," answered Tampa police spokeswoman Katie Hughes."Maybe they tossed a coin . . . It's not a real homicide, and I'm sure he (Simonson) was a little surprised, too."
GLAD THEY CLEARED THAT UP: In the wake of a recent surge in student bomb threats, Hillsborough public school teachers have been asked to report to work early to search their classrooms.
Yet school officials insist they are not looking for explosive devices, per se. Matter of fact, they wouldn't say much about what they were looking for at all.
"I think that's being misreported," said school district spokesman Mark Hart. "We can't talk about safety precautions that we're taking at this time. We really can't comment on any safety procedures that we're following."
Last week, school security director David Friedberg said that every time a school responds to a bomb threat, students are walked outside while staffers check the building for anything out of the ordinary.
"None of our people are searching for bombs," Friedberg said. "What we're searching for are suspicious or unusual items in our schools."
Especially ones that go boom?
WHO KNEW? That seems to be the question floating around the Hillsborough County Courthouse these days, as some of the 50 judges try to figure out who was notified of the pending retirement of Chief Judge Dennis Alvarez before his recent re-election to the top job.
Word from the halls of justice has it that some judges are truly offended by what they perceive to be Alvarez's last power play in winning re-election to the seat before promptly announcing his retirement.
Those mentioned as possible successors include Manuel Menendez Jr. and J. Rogers Padgett.
Whoever takes the spot will have to promise in writing to espouse a new way of thinking, insiders say, such as term limits, committees and open records.
- Times staff writers Logan Mabe and David Karp contributed to this report. Sue Carlton can be reached at (813) 226-3346, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Amy Herdy can be reached at (813) 226-3386 or email@example.com.